Gibson Co. Sheriff Bruce Vanoven stresses community engagement in first term

Gibson Co. Sheriff Bruce Vanoven stresses community engagement in first term
Published: Jan. 28, 2023 at 11:02 PM CST
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GIBSON CO., Ind. (WFIE) - Newly-elected Gibson County Sheriff Bruce Vanoven took office on Jan. 1, entering his first term at the helm of the sheriff’s office.

He was elected to office following the retirement of long-time Sheriff Tim Bottoms at the end of Dec. 2022.

“Five years in the making, but something I’ve been preparing for my whole career,” Sheriff Vanoven said.

Sheriff Vanoven is no stranger to the sheriff’s office, it’s a building he grew up near being a Princeton native.

“It’s more than a building to me,” Sheriff Vanoven said. “This is home, and it means a lot to me.”

Sheriff Vanoven has served at the sheriff’s office for over 20 years. Starting in 2001, he worked his way up the chain to the office he now sits in.

“I obviously have a tremendous responsibility to our staff,” Sheriff Vanoven said. “I want to see every one of them succeed, I want to see every one of them do great things, and I’m going to do everything I can to make that happen.”

During his 2022 campaign to become sheriff, he focused on a topic close to home – community.

“It’s not an us versus them,” Sheriff Vanoven said. “It’s an us together, we’re all working together to make Gibson County a better place.”

He says he doesn’t see people in the jail as just names. He sees them as people.

“People fear what they don’t know,” Sheriff Vanoven said. “So I want to be very known to Gibson County.”

Sheriff Vanoven says he has a lot of goals while he’s in office. Particularly this year, he wants to focus on doing a national night out with first responders, and bringing back the reserve program, which is a program aimed at county residents interested in law enforcement.

“Trust me, I have a list of ideas that would go from here to the Knox-Gibson line,” Sheriff Vanoven said. “So it’s coming, but whatever I roll out in Gibson County I want to do it right.”

Focusing on long-term goals, he wants to see through the construction of the new jail, and help rehabilitate people who are dealing with drug addiction.

Sheriff Vanoven says the first month so far has been promising, and he wants to continue what he’s already seen at the sheriff’s office.

“I’m just so impressed with my employees because they’re doing great things,” Sheriff Vanoven said. “And we’re going to continue to do that.”

During his time at the sheriff’s office, Sheriff Vanoven received multiple awards, most notably for his role in the Pike County triple-homicide back in 2006.

Jayne Wangler lost her daughter in that shooting. Three people were shot and killed, and left dead in a cornfield.

Wangler says Sheriff Vanoven sat with their bodies through the night to make sure no wild animals came around and did any more damage to their bodies.

“For that reason, he will forever be my hero,” Wangler said.

Sheriff Vanoven has a copy of the newspaper article detailing his award from that triple homicide hanging in his office.

Sheriff Vanoven emphasized an open-door-like policy with the community, meaning he wants anyone who needs help to feel comfortable reaching out and sharing their concerns with his office.

According to county officials, the new jail is tentatively set to be ready by Dec. 2023.